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Readers tackle tough choices for fantasy football awards
By John Dietz | Daily Herald Columnist

Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson


Associated Press

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Published: 1/1/2010 12:00 AM

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For those of you who play in fantasy football keeper leagues, you know there are always difficult decisions to make before a season gets under way.

This year, I had one big dilemma: Should I keep Atlanta RB Michael Turner or Tennessee RB Chris Johnson?

Truth be told, I didn't really give it much thought, and I held on to Turner. There was, however, a nagging voice in the back of my head saying, "You know, Johnson is an unbelievable athlete. He's the fastest player in the NFL. And our league gives bonus points for long TDs. Maybe you should keep Johnson."

But no, I went with the safe choice - and it ended up costing me as I finished 5-8, thanks in large part to losing Turner to injury.

Johnson, meanwhile, led many teams to playoff berths and into fantasy title games almost all by himself. He has racked up an unbelievable 10 straight 100-yard games, averaging an incredible 140.4 yards per game over that stretch. And if he can run for 128 yards Sunday in Seattle, he will become just the sixth back in NFL history to run for 2,000 yards in a season.

Johnson has been so amazing that in the aforementioned league, he has 100 more fantasy points than consensus No. 1 pick Adrian Peterson, and he has doubled the point total of the 10th best RB (Joseph Addai).

For all of these accomplishments, Daily Herald readers made Johnson the 2009 fantasy football MVP with 55 percent of the vote. Finishing a distant second at 25 percent was Saints QB Drew Brees, who really fell apart in the fantasy playoffs and cost teams titles all over the country.

Biggest surprise

I thought this award would come down to two players: Dallas WR Miles Austin and San Francisco TE Vernon Davis. But readers gave it to Austin in a landslide, 58 percent to 21.

Austin came out of nowhere in Week 5 when he posterized the Chiefs to the tune of 10 catches for 250 yards and 2 TDs, the second of which was a 60-yarder that ended the game in overtime. His emergence helped fantasy teams, and re-energized Tony Romo, who was going down Big Bust Road until that time.

Going into the season finale, Austin had 74 catches for 1,230 yards and 11 TDs - with 1,149 of those yards after Week 4.

Biggest dud

Matt Forte, come on down! You're the next contestant on the Price is Right!

First item up for bids is A NEW OFFENSIVE LINE!

"I'll bid $20,000,000, Drew."

"Ooooh, sorry Matt. Our display won't carry that many zeros. And Jerry Angelo hasn't left you with any draft picks for next year, so prepare to stink it up once again in 2010. Enjoy your lovely parting gifts, though."

Yes, Forte piled up 78 percent of the vote for this ignominious award, and rightfully so. A top-5 pick in many drafts, Forte (4 TDs, two 100-yard games) was dead weight almost season. He gave us five productive games all season, and only two of them were the kind of explosive performances we expect out of a high-end draft pick.

"Whatever the reason for his pathetic production - the O-line, the porous D, the pass-happy QB, or just a propensity to trip over the line of scrimmage - Forte (stinks) this year," wrote reader Dave Olsen of Hainesville. "He looks every bit the second coming of Anthony Thomas, Curtis Enis or that 'B teamer' who called himself the "Ultraback" (Raymont Harris)."

Comeback player

We could have simply handed the award to Tom Brady after missing last season, but that would have been too easy. So, let's hear it for Ricky Williams instead. In a tight race with Brett Favre, Williams won this award thanks to a 13-TD season that has included 1,350 yards from scrimmage thus far.

This is a comeback in its truest sense, too, because the last time Williams was an effective fantasy player was in 2003 when he ran for 1,372 yards and had 10 TDs.

Rookie of the year

All in all, this was a disappointing season from a rookie standpoint. There were some shining moments by Percy Harvin, Johnny Knox, Austin Collie, Beanie Wells, Knowshon Moreno, Jeremy Maclin and Hakeem Nicks, but nobody really stood out on a week-in, week-out basis.

Still, somebody has to win this award and readers chose Harvin (53-731-6 with 113 rushing yards). Harvin's most impressive stretch came in Weeks 8-13 when he scored four times in five games and averaged 79 yards per contest.

"I like to use consistency as a ruler for this," wrote Jamie Helm of Itasca. "I think Harvin gave you a better chance to win each week than Moreno or Nicks."

My teams: I split my third-place games, winning 611/2-57 in my unit league thanks to a huge game from Roddy White. ... In the DH experts league, I lost 113-111 thanks in large part to Adrian Peterson's fumble that led to the Bears' OT win. Had he held onto the ball and gotten me 1 more point, I would have won that game.

Good Bets

• Bears QB Jay Cutler and WR Devin Aroshomadu at Detroit. Cutler has found his favorite target - a guy who barely played the first 11 weeks of the season. Way to go, Lovie.

• Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Mike Wallace at Miami. Big Ben may throw for over 400 yards, and with Hines Ward hurting, watch for a nice game from Wallace.

Bad bets

• Any Eagles running back. It's impossible to count on Brian Westbrook (9 carries last week), LeSean McCoy (6) or Leonard Weaver (7), so don't.

• Panthers QB Matt Moore vs. New Orleans. Moore's been hot lately, but without Steve Smith (broken arm), Carolina won't be forcing things to Muhsin Muhammad.

See you next year: I hope everyone enjoyed another year of our fantasy coverage, both in the paper and on-line. For those of you who didn't try the on-line version, I encourage you to give it a shot next year - we plan to add more perks, start a subscriber league and continue to give the best advice in the industry.

Happy New Year to everyone, and we'll see you next year.